Due to the cognitive and emotional development your teen is experiencing during the adolescent stage, he/she may be exceptionally sensitive, fragile and vulnerable. It is imperative to avoid negative language and behaviour around the topic of mental health, as this will further fortify any existing stigma. Moreover, the creation of a safe and non-judgmental environment will be shattered if one engages in any of the following don’ts of discussion. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about talking to your teen, consult with your Toronto divorce lawyer for supplementary support and resources.

1. DON’T Dismiss Their Feelings
Be very careful not to quickly or offhandedly dismiss how your teen is feeling. During a meeting about your pending divorce, a Toronto divorce lawyer would never say to you, “You shouldn’t be feeling sad right now.” Extend that same courtesy and respect to your child. Avoid using phrases
such as:

  • I’m busy right now; can we talk about this later?
  • Don’t you want to talk about this with your friends or your mom/dad?
  • It’s just a phase; you’ll get through it.
  • All teens are moody, you’re fine.
  • I know you’re sad, but it’s time to get over it.
  • Did your friends tell you to be like this? Who told you to act like this?
  • When I was a kid, we never complained like you do.
  • Just keep it together for your mom/dad/siblings.
  • Do you know how many kids have it harder than you do?

2.  DON’T Try to Solve Their Problems for Them

Although it is suggested that one takes action, it is not the job of the parent to “solve the problem.” Undoubtedly, it is difficult for any parent to know and witness his/her child experience any kind of pain. However, your teen’s journey is a personal one. Physical injuries such as a scraped knee can be treated by kind words, a warm embrace and a band-aid. Mental illness is different. In trying to solve the problem yourself, you will belittle the severity of your teen’s experience. Avoid using phrases such as:

  • I think all you need to do is get out there and have more fun.
  • I know things are hard, but here’s how to feel better…
  • I know you, all you have to do is focus on school and this will pass.
  • You’re fine. This isn’t a real problem. We need to keep living our life like normal, like nothing has changed.
  • I have set up a meeting with your guidance counselor at school for next week, after that you’ll feel much better.

3.  DON’T Criticize of Judge How They Feel
There is already a stigma around mental illness. Be sure not to add to this negative pressure by critiquing how and why your teen feels the way he/she does. Not only will this close the pathway of communication, it will also cause your teen to associate his/her negative feelings with feelings of shame, rejection, and embarrassment. In turn, this association will hinder your teen’s recovery and treatment. Be constantly vigilant to avoid phrases such as:

  • You’re being so emotional and dramatic.
  • I don’t understand why you have to overreact to everything.
  • Are you doing this to get attention?
  • I am the one going through the divorce, not you.
  • I’m tired of you moping around the house.
  • I’m dealing with something right now; I need you to be strong for the family.
  • You’re being silly; your life is not that bad.

The don’ts of discussion are just as important as the do’s. For more information on how to communicate effectively and positively with your teens, ask your Toronto divorce lawyer.

Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 1: Special Attention for Adolescents
Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 2: The Do’s and Don’ts of Discussion
Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 3: The Do’s of Discussion